When we were kids my sister and I would tip the rocking chair upside down and throw a sheet over it to make a covered wagon, and I would get harnessed to the front to pull it. That was my first experience in thinking like a horse. Thanks Sis!
I remember waking my dad up early on Saturday mornings to drive the neighborhood kids to the rental ranch. Here we would spend our weekly chore money to ride for an hour out in these big pastures. It was the "stay on or walk back" school of horsemanship. I can still remember the names of all those horses: Strawberry, Omaha, Beauty, Mr. Ed...
My formal equestrian training consisted of a 5 day camp with most of it spent riding bareback at the end of a lunge line doing whatever the instructor told me to do: turn around and ride backwards, lie down, stand up, all the while moving at a trot and canter.
Going into junior high I sort of forgot about horses and replaced them with sports while my sister went into the show world, but somehow I managed to find my way back to just being around them. In college I worked for the equine hospital at the University of Tennessee Vet School. I had a roommate in Durango, Colorado, that let me ride her horse, Magic, and even when I moved to Seattle I naturally found my way to the stable where they kept the police horses. Then one day I was at a flea market and bought a western saddle. It was time to rekindle the fire that had been smoldering all these years.
The problem was that at 39 years old, hanging off the side or walking home just wasn't as much fun as it used to be. My fitness clients at the health club where I worked were worried about me as I always showed up Monday morning covered with cuts and bruises from my weekend horseback riding experiences. My sister's wise advice was not to buy an Arabian as a first horse, which I heeded. Instead I bought a rescued mustang that you couldn't get near with a saddle and who bolted for home at the drop of a hat (literally). Lucky for me the rescue ranch said to try Parelli, so I went home and googled P-U-R-R-E-L-L-Y and with some persistence found a Parelli Level 1 clinic close to my home.
I still remember my little mustang, Lobo, leaving the group in a bucking fit and Marc Rea saying, "Well, go get your horse." That was the beginning.
I was committed to understanding these magnificent creatures and soon my job and financial obligations were getting in the way of spending time with my horse. So I quit my job, sold my house, and became a dedicated student of the horse. I spent six weeks at the Parelli Center in Florida and then worked seasonally at ranches improving my riding skills and observing the behavior of horses. I was grateful for the immersion in Parelli philosophy, principles and practices, and when I finally knew enough to pass the foundation of Level 4 decided to become an instructor. I am forever grateful to the horses and humans that were (and continue to be) part of my education and especially thankful to Pat and Linda Parelli for their kind words of encouragement and for making the whole process fun.
My sister and I still have common ground to keep us connected and I still have that little mustang and he is still my favorite horse. Right now I am involved in the sport of endurance not because it is a competition but because it is a great way to see some beautiful country and there is a harmony and partnership that happens in present time while you are moving as one with your horse.
I wish to share the Parelli program for one simple reason. It works to create a beautiful common language and harmony between horse and human. I will forever be a student of the horse.
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